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Conor Swail soars to victory in $117,000 U.S. Bank CSI3* Grand Prix

Sunday, 28 January 2024
CSI3* Desert International Horse Park 2024

Photo © High Desert Sport Photo. Conor Swail and Theo 160. Photo © High Desert Sport Photo.


Press release from Desert International Horse Park



Conor Swail (IRL) is keen on repeating history, and he did just that on Saturday evening, topping the first international Grand Prix of the 2024 season. With Theo 160 (Christian 25 x Calando IV), a horse that excels in the desert, Swail raced to victory in the $117,000 U.S. Bank CSI3* Grand Prix.

It wasn’t an easy task, though. Swail was up against several top competitors come time for the jump-off, with only four jumping clear over Bernardo Costa Cabral’s (POR) track. His own student, Vanessa Mannix (CAN), led the way, Matt Archer (USA) was the final to go, and he also had to get past Karl Cook (USA) with Caracole de la Roque (Zandor x Kannan*GFE), a pair that has already won CSI5* grand prixs.

Cook put on the pressure, letting his mare, owned by Signe Otsby, cover the ground, setting the time to beat at 40.62 seconds. Admittedly, Swail thought he might be going for second. But Theo 160 had other thoughts, keeping his track as tidy as possible and taking fewer speed checks than Cook, coming home in 40.25 seconds and taking the lead.

Photo © High Desert Sport Photo. Conor Swail (IRL) and Theo 160 in their winning presentation, pictured with Ghazal Doustar, Mark Mekerdichian, Sam Assael, Peter Schram, Hector Zatarain, Trisha Lawler, all from U.S. Bank, plus JJ Bradford, and Madison Schram. Photo © High Desert Sport Photo.

“I knew I was close, but it was a beautiful round,” Swail reflected, a bit surprised when he took over the lead by a small margin. “I was so delighted with him. He does everything I ask and it’s another great win for him."

“Honestly, when Karl is in it with his good horse you’re going for second place most of the time,” Swail remarked of how he felt going in for the jump-off following Cook. “I did feel that my guys can run. It was very important I got one to two in the seven strides, and I got down [the next line] in the nine. I think that’s where I had time on Karl. His round he had to balance a little more.”

Cook ended up in second with Caracole de la Roque, and Mannix took third with Carmela Z (Candillo 3 x Nissan Caretano Z), as the third of three double clears.

Swail has been partnered with the 12-year-old Holsteiner gelding since 2021, and together they’ve racked up countless titles across the globe. He can depend on Theo to be there for him no matter the class, the fence height, or the competition they’re up against.

“He’s just such a great little athlete and I think the two of us know each other really well now so were very in tune with each other,” he reflected. “I know I can take what risks I’m going to take and I know he’s going to help me out, so I take big risks.”

Swail has spent the last few seasons competing avidly at DIHP, and this season he’s opted to stay out west and forego Wellington, aiming his string of horses at the various levels from National through CSI4*.

“There are still seven weeks left so i am trying to give myself a good opportunity to win each grand prix,” he said of his plan through the end of Desert Circuit. “I’m lucky enough I have three or four very good horses so we’ll be changing them around and swapping each week. Hopefully I can get good results and the horses are jumping well. That’s what I’m looking for.”

As the competition only gets fiercer, Swail will surely remain a top contender regardless of the horse he sits on.


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